Last year was a mess for the Dolphins, one they hope to put behind them faster than a Mike Wallace go route. The Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito saga still hangs over the franchise's head, and they are desperate to turn the page.
The first move was revamping the offensive line, and they signed free agents at left tackle (Branden Albert) and left guard (Shelley Smith) and spent a first round pick on a right tackle in Ja'Wuan James and a third-round pick on a right guard in Billy Turner. That makes four new starters around center Mike Pouncey, who hopefully will be fine coming off hip surgery in June, and the goal is to help third-year starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked a league-high 58 times in 2013.
They also need to help the running game, which was putrid last year (No. 26 in the NFL), and adding Knowshon Moreno as a free agent should help. And the Dolphins have a new play-caller in Bill Lazor, who was the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia last season.
We're not expecting the Dolphins to resemble the Eagles by any stretch, but there's plenty of talent in Miami to help Fantasy owners. Tannehill could emerge as a viable Fantasy quarterback, Moreno has the chance to remain a starting running back and Wallace, Brian Hartline and Charles Clay are either serviceable starters (Wallace) or bye-week replacements (Hartline and Clay).
Lamar Miller and Jarvis Landry also have potential, but the key is the offensive line. As Pouncey said in an interview with CBSSports.com this offseason, "We're going to be ready to go." If you like any of the Dolphins players this year then let's hope Pouncey is right.
Reality after Peyton ... Knowshon Moreno
Moreno never had to worry about extra defenders near the line of scrimmage thanks to Manning and the Broncos passing game. He flourished in 2013 with career highs in rushing yards (1,038), rushing touchdowns (10), catches (60) and receiving yards (548), and he averaged 4.3 yards per carry and had 13 total touchdowns to finish as the No. 5 Fantasy running back in standard leagues.
Maybe Tannehill will earn that same respect to keep defenders concerned about his arm, but he'll never approach Manning's status. And because of that we expect Moreno to take a significant step back in production, along with a knee injury that could sideline him into training camp.
He also has to keep Miller off the field, and the Dolphins offensive line has to prove its worth. Moreno should still be considered a flex option if healthy and is worth drafting in Round 7 or 8 depending on the size of your league. But don't go into your season with Moreno as a starting option because you'll be left disappointed.
Better than you think ... Mike Wallace
Most Fantasy owners are going to look at Wallace's production in 2013 as a disappointment, and rightfully so. He finished the year with 73 catches for 930 yards and a career-low five touchdowns. But if he plays like he did at the end of the season -- he had 29 catches for 396 yards and four touchdowns over the final six games, scoring at least 14 Fantasy points in three of those outings -- then he could rebound in 2014. And it's not a stretch in Lazor's offense.
The Dolphins didn't move Wallace around last year, but Lazor plans to use Wallace like the Eagles did with DeSean Jackson. Giving Wallace some different looks should help his production.
And when the Dolphins featured Wallace he was productive. He had at least nine targets in nine games and he finished with at least eight Fantasy points in seven of those contests.
He's the type of receiver you'll settle for on Draft Day with a mid-round pick as a No. 3 option, but don't be upset about it. If he plays like he did at the end of the season then you'll end up starting him more often than not.
This year's surprise? ... Ryan Tannehill
|Lamar Miller||203 (177 car., 26 rec.)||28.7%|
|Daniel Thomas||124 (109 car., 15 rec.)||17.6%|
|Mike Wallace||76 (3 car., 73 rec.)||10.8%|
|Charles Clay||76 (7 car. 69 rec.)||10.8%|
|Brian Hartline||76 rec.||10.8%|
Lazor was obviously influential in helping Foles have a breakout season with the Eagles last year, and hopefully his tutelage will rub off on Tannehill. It was hard to fully gauge Tannehill's growth in his sophomore campaign in 2013 because of all the sacks, but the potential is there.
He narrowly missed a 4,000-yard season (3,913), and he passed for 24 touchdowns. He also had at least 18 Fantasy points in seven games. But he struggled as well, and he only posted 20 or more Fantasy points three times, starting in Week 13.
The upgrades along the offensive line should help, as will the additions of Moreno and Landry, and Wallace gets another year in the system. We could see Tannehill emerge as a mid-season starter, much like Foles last year, and he's someone to monitor if he goes undrafted in the majority of leagues.
Moreno is going to see plenty of familiar faces this year since the Dolphins face the AFC West, including his former team. He had double digits in Fantasy points in at least one meeting with Oakland, Kansas City and San Diego last year, so hopefully he can repeat those performances. And he should be highly motivated to face the Broncos in Denver in Week 12.
The season opens with a home matchup against the Patriots, meaning you might want to avoid Wallace and his showdown with Darrelle Revis. And the Dolphins might not help you much toward the end of the Fantasy season with matchups against Denver, the Jets, Baltimore and New England from Weeks 12-15.
Training camp battles
Who's the No. 1 running back? We're expecting Moreno to start for the Dolphins, if healthy, based on his body of work and performance in 2013, but Miller won't just hand him the job. We'll find out in training camp how Miller responds to being replaced, and keep in mind he's still a talented rusher, who has gotten the majority of offseason work. Maybe the offensive line held him back last year, and the play-calling under then-coordinator Mike Sherman was horrible. If Moreno is out for all of training camp then Miller would start. Both running backs are only worth drafting with mid-round picks.
Who's the No. 3 receiver? Wallace and Hartline are locked into the Top 2 spots on the depth chart, but Brandon Gibson, Landry and possibly Rishard Matthews will compete for the No. 3 role. Gibson was good in that role prior to going down with a knee injury with at least seven Fantasy points in a standard league in four of his first six games. But Landry was drafted in the third round after a productive career at LSU, and he has more upside than Gibson. Keep an eye on the battle, and the winner could be worth a late-round flier in deep PPR leagues.
The Dolphins don't have an easy schedule to open the season with New England, Buffalo and Kansas City in the first three games, and those teams are going to challenge Miami's overhauled offensive line with a heavy pass rush. But if Tannehill can survive and somehow shine, he gets the Raiders in Week 4, which is a favorable matchup. A good performance there will catch Fantasy owners' attention heading into Miami's bye in Week 5, and in Week 6 they are home to Green Bay. Drew Brees will be on a bye that week, so Tannehill can be a definite option to start against the Packers. From that point forward he could develop into a weekly starter if he plays up to his potential.